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179: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

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About this episode

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Welcome to another episode of Outrage + Optimism, where we examine issues at the forefront of the climate crisis, interview change-makers, and transform our anger into productive dialogue on building a sustainable future.

In this episode, co-hosts Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac, and Paul Dickinson give their concluding thoughts on COP27, followed by Tom’s interview with Rory Stewart OBE FRSGS FRSL一former Conservative cabinet minister, diplomat, soldier, author, academic, charitable entrepreneur, and podcaster一a true polymath if there ever was one.

The team opens with reflections on the achievements of the COP27, the UN’s annual climate conference. Find out what they think about the agreement on “loss and damage”一the responsibility of industrialized nations for the climate crisis, and the case for compensating poorer countries suffering disproportionately from its consequences. They also explore how the COP is evolving and what political heavy lifting really looks like after 18 hours at the negotiating table. 

Next, Tom and Rory Stewart talk about driving change in the world: Is it more effective from the inside or outside of politics? Stewart’s answer may surprise you. The duo also reflects on the ongoing struggle一both in the climate world and beyond一between momentum and perfection. Do radical ideas get in the way of progress? 

Finally, Stewart, now president of NGO GiveDirectly, discusses its mission and how trust elevates impact. GiveDirectly is a platform enabling people to give cash directly to the poorest people in the world. It eliminates the middle players and corruption that often prevent the poorest people from accessing what they need most. It’s a fascinating approach to mitigating poverty.

You’ll want to hear all of Stewart’s incredible insights!

We close the episode with music from British singer-songwriter L.A. Salami and his captivating single, “Desperate Times, Mediocre Measures.”

Enjoy the show!


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Full Transcript

Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Christiana: [00:00:15] I'm still Christiana Figueres.

Paul: [00:00:17] And I'm always Paul Dickinson.

Tom: [00:00:18] This week we do a mop up for what happened at COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh with issues covering loss and damage, 1.5 degrees, fossil fuel language in the text. Plus, we speak to Rory Stewart, former minister for international development of the UK and host of the hit podcast 'The Rest is Politics'. Plus, we have music from L.A. Salami with a very appropriate song title. Thanks for being here. Okay, so this is the third time I think we've covered off what's been going on at COP, but this is the wrap up episode. Sharm el Sheikh. The COP finished, I think it was the second longest ever COP. It finished sometime on Sunday morning after sort of 36 hours, 3 a.m. After all of this, 3 a.m. followed by lots and lots of country statements.

Paul: [00:01:07] There were so many photos of Jennifer Morgan asleep in all the global news. I've never seen this sort of celebrity for being asleep. The German climate change negotiator.

Tom: [00:01:15] And we should clarify, she wasn't asleep most of the time. She achieved an enormous amount. Maybe we'll cover that, but where should we stop? There's so much to talk about.

Christiana: [00:01:22] There were few women from fact, few people who worked as hard as Jennifer.

Tom: [00:01:29] And Paul Dickinson.

Paul: [00:01:29] I was not suggesting that her sleep was anything but richly deserved, just simply that it was recorded.

Tom: [00:01:36] Right. Let's start with what they achieved. So loss and damage. This is an issue we covered over the course of the last couple of weeks. But now we know the final form that you were very familiar with when you were running the UNFCCC and for many years prior Christiana. This is not a new issue, but there is a new development in the negotiations. So should we start with that? What do you feel about where we landed on loss and damage?

Christiana: [00:02:00] Oh. Well, that wasn't the question that I was expecting. But I can.

Tom: [00:02:06] Tell me the question you wanted and I shall answer.

Christiana: [00:02:10] Okay. That's okay. That's okay. Well, in general, I think, as usual, a very mixed bag of some positive results, some disappointing results as as with every other COP. It's not not novel to the COP's, which is sad, because we are at the point in which we should only be getting good news out of the COP's. But certainly a very, very mixed bag. So on the bright side, I would put two things I think on the bright side. One is that they agreed to mark my words to create a fund for loss and damage. Hence, we're now going to be seeing a multi-year process of creation. So let's not think this is, you know, Sunday to Monday kind of.

Tom: [00:03:01] And creation includes small questions like how much money and who gets what and things like that, right?

Christiana: [00:03:06] Well, who's who's going to put the money in and in fact, even who's going to be eligible to get any support. Yeah. So the the ins and outs of those financial flows have not been hashed out. And I must say. The fact that after so many years, I just I just honestly cannot remember how many years this lost and damage thing has been at least ten, at least ten years. That loss and damage has been on the agenda. So the fact that finally we got some movement on it, although it still is in an agreement to create a fund. But interesting to note that the final handbrake to that agreement was the United States. They were just incredibly resistant to something like this. And one of the major concerns that they had is they didn't want China to be a recipient of any possible funds. They want China to be a payer in a funder of this fund and not a recipient. And that, of course, must have held John Kerry and Minister Jinhua up very late at night, because this despite the fact that, as we mentioned, the two presidents got together and decided, yes, we're going to work on this together, but that is really a major, major shift, not just for the two of them, but it is a major shift in one of the major pillars of the climate convention, which is who carries the historical responsibility and hence who should pay. And so if China begins to put money into this, that would be a huge, huge geopolitical strategic shift between the United States and China unknown at this point. But that is the reason why it was so, so difficult at the end, because it's not just about the fund. It is about what is the historical/future position of China in in climate change. So a little step forward.

Tom: [00:05:15] And just just one moment, just one word on that. I mean, from an outside perspective, you say, well, those who pollute should pay into the fund. But the argument here is that China does not have historical responsibility because they developed relatively recently and the UN has always seen them on the developing countries side of this equation. So they've always received money. And what we're talking about is them shifting from one side of that aisle to the other, Right?

Christiana: [00:05:37] Yeah. And perhaps just to understand that further, it's 1990 is the year in which, you know, you are either have historical responsibility or not. So those that were substantially emitting before 1990 are the industrialized countries. China did not start to substantially emit until after that date. And so so that is why China is still considered, although it is one of the two major emitters, it is definitely still considered not to have historical responsibility, but certainly assuming more and more future responsibility.

Tom: [00:06:12] Okay. So that's one of your good things you want. You were you were going through a list.

Christiana: [00:06:16] Oh, yes. There is a second good thing. Thank you for reminding me. So, again, thanks to a brilliant woman, Prime Minister Mia Mottley from Barbados, who really carried the flag on what on earth our multilateral institutions doing, or rather not doing. The whole Bretton Woods institutional structure that was built for a post-war reality and continues to operate as though that were the reality. She has been banging on the drum that that reality is no longer it should not operate as the major strategic purpose of the World Bank and the other multilateral development banks and that there is an urgent reform needed. Now let's remember that the UNFCCC does not dictate what happens at the Bretton Woods institutions, and this would definitely have to be and is already a discussion inside of the World Bank and the other multilateral development banks. But the fact that there is a call from the UNFCC§C in a COP decision to to undertake reforms is actually pretty gutsy, right? Pretty gutsy, Yeah. Those are my two highlights. What about you?

Tom: [00:07:37] I like it. 

Paul: [00:07:38] They're lovely. They're super. I'm just like a small point, which is I think it was just amazing that the US and China managed to kind of find a way to put their differences to one side and say that we're going to collaborate on climate change. And the reason that's incredibly important is if you think back things to things like this $100 billion a year pledge, that's never been fulfilled. You know, why has it not been fulfilled? Well, there isn't a world government, right? But we kind of do need an emergency committee of the world's governments to start making things happen. And if the US and China stand together, the two largest economies in the world, that offers real hope for a consensus to build that everyone can pull everyone along. So that's my little way of observing how exciting this is, particularly around redesigning these Bretton Woods institutions. So, yeah, we I think it's a time of replenishment for the UNFCCC system, I hope.

Tom: [00:08:29] Yeah. It is interesting though, isn't it? I mean, there is an inconsistency in the US position here in the sense that they are pushing hard for a reconfiguration of the UNFCCC in the sense that some countries are now very different to who they were in 1990. They need like China now needs to pay into these funds rather than receive it to make it more relevant for today. But as you said, Christiana, all of the Bretton Woods institutions are sort of frozen in the 1940s. Look at the composition of the Security Council, Look at the fact that the US always gets to choose the CEO of the World Bank. All these other different institutions are historically skewed towards developed country structures. And interestingly, if we're going to crack open at the UNFCC to see who pays and who receives money from this loss and damage fund, maybe that will open the floodgates to cracking open some of these other things that have become lost in history based on when institutions were created. Too optimistic?

Christiana: [00:09:28] No. From your lips to man and God's ears.

Tom: [00:09:34] And so just just one further question on this loss and damage from because you made the point that there's no money in it yet. The 100 billion has been so...

Christiana: [00:09:42] It doesn't exist yet!

Tom: [00:09:43] Doesn't exist yet. Write a commitment to open a bank account.

Paul: [00:09:45] It's a future truth. 

Tom: [00:09:48] This hundred billion has become obviously totemic and this money was agreed in Copenhagen and it's never really been delivered in the way that we would imagine it. The fear around the loss and damage is that we're now going to go down the same rabbit hole that we're going to spend years wrangling about how much money does it really get to live and is it public money? So this is not the end of the loss and damage argument. This is really the starting gun of it becoming much more granular, correct?

Christiana: [00:10:13] Yes, exactly. And you might have noticed that the decision calls for the creation of a committee. And I need not say anything else. Right. That's it. That's it.

Tom: [00:10:24] I'm going to be fine to be in a committee.

Christiana: [00:10:24] This is great. We will be fine. Yeah.

Tom: [00:10:29] Okay.

Paul: [00:10:29] Well, many good things have come out of committees. Is there another way to start? Is there another way to start?

Christiana: [00:10:35] No, there isn't. You're right. Good. Thank you for correcting us.

Tom: [00:10:38] Okay, so loss and damage not resolved, but at least name to the issues. And God bless them, right? I mean, this is an amazing, great journey.

Paul: [00:10:47] But a thousand miles starts with a single step.

Tom: [00:10:49] Developing countries held together. Push this through. It's a big deal. Interestingly, there was a moment and if Jennifer Morgan does come on, we can ask this ourselves where it looked like this was going to be a quid pro quo for more ambition from developing countries, the creation of this fund. But that didn't turn out to be where we got to in the end. So that's that's interesting that that happened that way.

Christiana: [00:11:12] Yeah. No. And thank you for repeating, Tom, how difficult this is. Right? It's very easy to stand outside of these processes and underestimate the effort. I mean, the political heavy lifting to come to this point is just not even conceivable unless you are there every day at 3:00 in the morning. Yeah. And trying to bring these texts together.

Paul: [00:11:38] So can I ask a tiny question, Christiana, just for our listeners, that political heavy lifting at two in the morning, what does it actually look like? What is it? Can you just give it like a little picture of what that's like?

Christiana: [00:11:49] Well, I don't have the number here, but in a text like that, there could be, I don't know, tens, hundreds of brackets. And the brackets represent issues, words, sometimes even punctuation points that one country hasn't agreed to, and hence it's in brackets. And so all country one, once you have a text on the table that is usually put forward by in this case by Mr. Rojas, the minister of Chile, and and Jennifer Morgan, the minister of Germany, one developed and one developing country. And once those texts are on the table, then parties, i.e., governments start to say, well, I object to this and I object to the other and da da. And every time the object you have to put a bracket around it. And so in the end you have a text full of brackets and then the the magic and the science of it is how do you lift those brackets in a balanced way so that both developing and developed countries feel that their interests are at least minimally represented and that it's not overweighted in the direction of one or the other groupings of countries.

Paul: [00:13:03] And that's done in a debate and it's also done with private lobbying. Or how does just my final question, how does that...

Christiana: [00:13:08] Does it I wouldn't say lobbying, because lobbying, I think, is associated in all of our minds with private sector lobbying governments. So I think in this case it is negotiations and yes, it is done in in the room that is negotiating the text. And there are many rooms that are operating at the same time. So in the room that is negotiating this, but it's also very much done between the two presiding ministers in this case, Maysa and Jennifer, who then call in countries where they think that they're having a problem with the country and go like, look, you know, you have objected to X, Y, Z, what do you need in order to lift these brackets? And so there's a lot of bilateral work that needs to be done and that's done very much in confidence. And then the other piece is what is done in the open in either formal or informal meetings.

Paul: [00:14:06] Thank you.

Tom: [00:14:06] Just just because you ask for a picture, I'm the magic of having an iPhone. I remember when we were in Lima and Christiana was going through this process of like consulting with different governments and trying to work it out. And then she came into my office at 3:00 in the morning and just sat on the floor and had a little nap for about 10 minutes. So this is also the physical perspective of what this looks like. Maybe, maybe I'll tweet this out for listeners to have a sense of what this actually looks like in practice.

Tom: [00:14:29] Right. Okay. So on from loss and damage, 1.5 and overall ambition, there were some interesting things that happened in this as well. And if you look at some of the reports, the best anyone can sort of say is that there was no backsliding in Sharm, which is not really the sort of clarion call for global ambition that we would hope for. 1.5 did end up in the text, but there was also some other interesting sort of phraseology in there. There was a piece of the text that contains a provision to boost low emissions energy rather than renewable energy. So that's being interpreted in a lot of interesting ways. Does that mean gas? Does that mean so open a door to other kinds of fossil fuel production where we remove the emissions?

Christiana: [00:15:11] Yes.

Tom: [00:15:12] Well, what do we think about this? I mean, this must have been lobbying by petro states like Saudi Arabia and others that got this in. I'm assuming.

Christiana: [00:15:21] Again, you use the word lobbying.

Tom: [00:15:23] I did it deliberately.

Paul: [00:15:27] Oh, I think this is lobbying.

Christiana: [00:15:28] Definitely lobbying.

Paul: [00:15:31] Lobbying equals dollars. And there's a lot of money in fossil. It's no good, is it?

Tom: [00:15:35] That's not good news. Low emissions mean. No.

Christiana: [00:15:38] No, that that really is a backsliding. And the 1.5 and the treatment of fossil fuels are definitely obviously go hand in hand. So the fact that there was not a clear line being drawn on the on the top, so to speak, of 1.5 as being the maximum ceiling is very disappointing. Very, very disappointing. And yes, there was a lot of pressure, as has been reported widely in the press from 600 representatives of the fossil fuel industry who were there, and they would have lobbied for sure. But on the other side, I'm really wondering. What do you two make of what I see as a surprising positioning of India this year? Because, some listeners, those who are COP nerds sorry about that if you are, may remember that last year at COP26 when Alok Sharma was trying to gavel down that agreement in Glasgow, it was India that came and said we will not agree to phase out of coal. We need to water that text down to phase down of coal. And they were pretty adamant and they finally got that watered down text. Now, lo and behold, here we are 12 months later. And who is now trying to put all kinds of alliances together and and exert political pressure to expand that language from last year and say, not just phase down of coal, but of all fossil fuels, you guessed it, India.

Christiana: [00:17:27] I mean, what on earth is going on there now? Also fantastically supported by Australia because we have a new government in Australia, by Canada, by the United States. They did not get that text agreed. But I think it's a really interesting a change of hearts/minds of India. But honestly I have not been able to understand that and remains a little mystery that I want to noodle in to go down that rabbit hole to understand what happened there. Is it a change of heart or do they just see that as being consistent with the phase down of coal? Are they actually protecting that? It could go either way, right? Either they're protecting the demise of coal or the demise of the others versus the demise of coal, or they have had a change of hearts and they're looking at demand destruction of all fossil fuels. I don't really know. It remains a big question mark for me.

Paul: [00:18:23] I think it's not mysterious. Christiana. First of all, nobody wants to make Alok Sharma nearly cry and India nearly did. So that's that's like this repentance. I think they're in there somewhere. But in all seriousness, there's a lot of coal going into Indian power stations, but there isn't really anything intrinsically in the national interest of India about gas and oil. So yeah, phasing them out, it's no problem.

Tom: [00:18:45] Yeah, I sadly agree with your analysis, Paul. I mean, I think it's how do you outrun a polar bear? You don't have to outrun a polar bear. You have to be faster than the next person behind you. I think what they're trying to do actually, is make it seem that by toxifying other fossil fuels, they bring coal back into the mix rather than having it isolated as a particular fuel that gets targeted individually. So I think they're trying to broaden it to put pressure on everyone else rather than just on themselves.

Paul: [00:19:14] Yes, Coal to global public opinion.

Christiana: [00:19:16] Yes, I do agree with that interpretation, Tom, that what India is trying to do here is to fossilize oil and gas, which may not be a bad thing, because let's remember that particularly gas has been trying to de-fossilize itself and and, you know, put themselves there as the fuel of transition forever and ever and ever expanding the elasticity of that time horizon. And so I just think it's still very interesting that India chose to to wrap its arms around all fossil fuels. Yes. They're wanting to perhaps minimize the the effect of coal, but in so doing, they're fossilized, causing the other ones, which is maybe not a bad thing. So so let's see what happens there. That's sort of the beginning of a little a little group of of little rebels that are taking a surprising position. Let's see what happens with them if they actually formalize that alliance. Let's see. 

Paul: [00:20:22] We love a rebel alliance.

Tom: [00:20:25] Now, just moving on from this, I know we don't have endless time to do this podcast. Unfortunately, we have a brilliant interview to take you to, but there's also been an interesting amount of commentary, some of it from you and me, Christiana, in the FT, but lots of others are saying that COP's now, are you ready for this phrasing are no longer fit for purpose.

Christiana: [00:20:44] Oh my gosh. If I hear that one more time. Yes, Honestly, honestly. So I as as both of you know by now, that is one of my pet peeves because of the following. What is the purpose of something called a conference of the parties? It's not called a climate change convention. It's not called a climate change conference. It no, it is called Conference of the Parties.

Tom: [00:21:15] Which is what COP stands for. Of course.

Christiana: [00:21:16] That is what COP stands for. So the purpose of a COP is to actually bring parties, who are parties to a convention, in this case to the Paris Agreement as well. Bring them around the table for them to negotiate the details that have not been negotiated before. So I think when people say that the COP is no longer fit for purpose. What they actually mean is that the purpose has shifted because by and large, the negotiation and the agreement that was necessary on the part of governments was substantially delivered in Paris with many details such as loss and damage, for example, still to be to be worked out. But I think there is broad consensus that the whole purpose of these yearly meetings, I'm not going to call them a COP, yearly meetings, is actually to move from negotiation to implementation, and that is what this COP has not substantially delivered. And so it's not about changing the COP because that is actually internationally recognised. And according to international law, cops are there for the parties, for the governments. What we need to do is to understand that because the purpose has shifted. Therefore, we have to shift this. And it will if I mean, if the lawyers get their way, it wouldn't be called a COP anymore. It would be called something different because it wouldn't be a COP anymore. It has to include private sector, because the private sector is now actually in the driver's seat and they have the capacity to implement much more than governments do. So, yeah, so it's not that it's not fit for purpose, it's that we have to understand the purpose has changed and changed and then change how we come together for it. So. You know, according to the very simple logic, that form always follows function. So let's first understand that the function has changed and then we can change the form to. To serve as the new function.

Tom: [00:23:42] And Paul, I mean, just to ask you about that, because Christiana has made a very clear point there, that it's really the private sector that now needs to drive this transformation. You are you've been involved in private sector leadership on climate change for a very long time. Do you think the COP's are useful for the private sector to elevate action? Or do you feel like we haven't yet? Because I mean, Nigel Topping and others have made tremendous strides in trying to integrate private sector action into the COP. And so we shouldn't ignore the fact that COP's are changing anyway in many ways. However, that process hasn't yet completed. What's your sense of whether the private sector gets what it needs from COP's to keep it moving forward and transforming as it needs to?

Paul: [00:24:27] Look, it's so simple. As Christiana says, the private sector is required to make this happen. And they can. And they I think most of them want to and they'll do it very quickly and Earth will be saved. But if you think of it as a game, if you heard it here first, if you think of it as a game, the government.

Christiana: [00:24:42] A game!

Paul: [00:24:43] Yeah, well, give me a sec.

Christiana: [00:24:46] I'm going to breathe. I'm going to breathe. Carry on.

Paul: [00:24:50] If you think of it as a game. The government is the referee. Government sets the rules. So if the goal says five degrees end of Earth, then all the players will kick the ball into that goal. But if the referee draws the goal as net zero by 2040, all the players will kick the ball into that goal and we'll get down to net zero by 2040. So the point being, unfortunately what happened a long time ago is that the players sort of took control of the referee. And what we need to do through the COP is we need to reestablish the referee as the one that makes the rules. It gets the players to play the game whereby we all win. And so, look, it sounds a little bit like I'm being poetic. I don't mean to, but I think the COP's should be a sort of multi level, multi dimensional thinking and speaking chamber. You know, they're in the Diary of the Whole World now. Right. And it could be a conceptual space for a sort of new kind of emerging, unprecedented empowerment. I think we need artists to reimagine it.

Tom: [00:25:52] I agree with that.

Christiana: [00:25:53] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I actually think that what we're seeing is that we're playing two different games with two different referees. And so you have the game and I'm sorry it is not meant out of any disrespect because this is absolutely not a game. But you have one.

Paul: [00:26:09] Game in the world.

Christiana: [00:26:10] Yeah, the most serious game in the world. You have one field that is occupied by governments, that is the COP field. Then you have in parallel another field that is occupied by everyone who's not a national government, by subnational governments, by institutions, by scientists, by finance people, by corporations, etc., etc., etc.. And and the two fields are actually in in action side by side, as opposed to informing each other of speed and scale. That is the problem that I have, that these are two different realities. One is the real economy reality, which is on the field, not officially. I mean, it is sort of, but not really officially covered by the COP. And the other is the reality, the political reality that is much slower. And I think to throw rotten tomatoes at the cop at the field that is operated by national governments is not quite very realistic because we all know that politics and policy are very, very slow. I am actually more interested in those decisions that have been taken on taken in that field. How are they affecting the other field and the advances in the field that is occupied by the non-national governments, all of that progress, How does that fertilize then further ambitious decisions on the other side? And so I think if we were able to bring down the wall between those two fields, we would actually be able to move quicker. Faster.

Tom: [00:27:51] Yeah. And and again, we should acknowledge that a lot of progress in that direction has been made, right? I mean, the action agenda is now astonishing along the outsides of where the COP happens and the breakthrough agenda and all of these commitments. It was really impressive, I have to say. I mean, in many ways I felt this was the first COP where the non-state actor, the action area almost felt like the heart of it. And the negotiations, it may have been sort of an accident of design.

Christiana: [00:28:16] Isn't that true in Glasgow also, though, Tom?

Tom: [00:28:19] Well, I mean, yes, but there was also there was a sort of there was the necessity of finalising the rulebook. There were a whole bunch of negotiation things that kind of felt very on a continuum from the COP. This felt, I felt that this was the first post. And I don't mean to downplay the loss and damage breakthrough and another I felt it was the first post negotiation COP and the first COP of implementation, which is what it had to be. Now, I did also feel like it was in a slightly confused area where it had left one form and hadn't yet settled on its new form. And I think that's the interesting challenge that's ahead of us. So over the course of the next year, we will see the global stocktake that will tell us at some point next year what we all know, which is that we are not implementing the Paris Agreement as we need to. And I think that is a moment to say are these annual meetings that are the main way in which the world tries to get on top of this issue, solving the problem we now have in front of us. And I think that is a chance for evolution to try to put our arms around a form that solves our problem. And I think an interesting thought experiment, not for now, is if COP's didn't exist and we were trying to design them, how would we design them right now? What what would the most fit for purpose formula be to try to solve the problem in front of us in 2022?

Paul: [00:29:42] Exactly. But yeah, can I give one tiny example of something that I think just indicative of the kind of excitement is actually it was an announcement Al Gore made about climate tracing. That was great. Particular initiative is harnessing 300 satellites, right? They've got eyes on 80,000 facilities around the world that they can evaluate the outputs from satellites. And then they can double check that using machine learning. And what I find so exciting is when I heard him talking about it, he was talking about actually, you can start buying steel from lower energy steel suppliers and creating marketplaces. I know that you've talked about that with the pledge. And I just think that the last thing I'll leave to Al Gore, saying...

Christiana: [00:30:23] Awesome breakthrough. 

Paul: [00:30:23] The third industrial revolution, he said, would have the scale of the industrial revolution, but the speed of the digital revolution. That's very exciting.

Tom: [00:30:32] Awesome. Yeah, that was a great, great breakthrough. And kudos to him. He's been working on this for a long time.

Christiana: [00:30:37] Yes, he has.

Tom: [00:30:38] Now we have a very exciting guest for you this week. Rory Stewart is.

Christiana: [00:30:43] Wait, wait, wait, wait. Before we go there.

Tom: [00:30:45] Go ahead.

Christiana: [00:30:45] We have to let our listeners know that this time, although they have been very, very silent, very quiet here.

Paul: [00:30:52] Very craggy.

Christiana: [00:30:54] Well, we have a live audience in the studio.

Tom: [00:30:59] Costa Rican Studio.

Christiana: [00:31:00] Costa Rican studio. Yeah. So that has attracted two migratory birds from Washington, DC coming down here and know my very good friends, Peggy and Bob are here for what? For you as Thanksgiving. Although Costa Rica doesn't do Thanksgiving, but we are delighted because we're very, very old friends. No, we're very good friends of many years. We're not old friends. We're very good friends of many years and they are avid listeners and they have been here in the studio. Life. So would you like to say hello? You got to say, There we go. There you go.

Tom: [00:31:42] Okay, so anything else we move to interview? All right. So Rory Stewart is a remarkable human being, and you probably know that already, because if you found us at Outrage + Optimism, then you probably know The Rest is Politics. He has had a long career as a soldier. He then left the Army and spent a couple of years walking across Afghanistan and speaking to people and getting to know the people there and what they felt about the evolution of governance. He's worked as a civil servant in the UK. He then became an MP, he became Minister of International Development. He ran for the leadership campaign of the Conservative Party against Boris Johnson. And and when he didn't win that he moved on and has done many other things, including launching the podcast, The Rest is Politics. And if you haven't listened to it, you probably have because it's one of the biggest podcasts in the world.

Christiana: [00:32:29] But if you haven't, please do.

Tom: [00:32:31] Please do so. It's really good. It's launched. It's run by Rory, a former Conservative minister, together with Alastair Campbell, the former head of communications for New Labour under Tony Blair. And it's what I love about their podcast is the model how to have a conversation where you disagree with somebody, but you do it in a constructive way and it's made a big difference to the political discourse in the UK. The idea that you don't have to agree with someone to have a productive and useful conversation with them. So listen to The Rest is Politics. But here is Rory Stewart. He lives in Amman, Jordan. And as part of the the interview, you hear the call to prayer from the local mosque to where he lives. So listen out to that. I grew up partly in the Middle East, and the call to prayer still feels like home to me. So I always love hearing that. So here is Rory Stewart. We'll be back afterwards.

Tom: [00:33:25] So Rory Stewart is such a pleasure and a privilege to welcome you to the podcast. We are huge fans of your remarkable podcast with Alastair Campbell, The Rest is Politics. I'm sure everybody, if you know us, you know them as well. But it's a delight to have you here. Thank you for joining us on Outrage + Optimism. I'd like to kick off by just asking you so people often comment on the diversity of my life experience. I've been a Buddhist monk, a Greenwood chair maker, a political strategist for multilateral treaties. But I am a child in this compared to the the polymath that you are having been a tutor to princes, a soldier, an author, a wanderer, a politician, a minister, a podcaster, and so much more. And I'd love to just start out by asking you, as you cast your mind across this range of your experience, what's the golden thread in terms of qualities or values that ties it back to you? How do these pieces connect and how do you make sense of them in the stories that you tell about yourself? Load More

Rory Stewart : [00:34:22] Goodness, it's a very, very grand question. And I must say I wish I'd been a Buddhist monk. That would have been a more impressive thing, is that I need to ask you why you're not still a Buddhist monk, since you think you should be heading not moving away from. One of the things that I care about in life is trying to get in touch with ground reality, which sounds a slightly pompous jargon way of expressing an anxiety I always have, which is that government. Of different sorts. And I've been in government already in and out for 30 years, is addicted to jargon, to abstraction, to theory. And that theory is often dangerously blind to what you encounter when you get into the field. And getting into the field in my life can mean almost anything. That could mean, as in prison minister spending a day with a prison officer walking around a prison. It could mean in Afghanistan, walking across Afghanistan. It could mean in my constituency, walking through the constituency, or it could mean an international development being very focused on visiting remote projects in rural areas. But it's about the fight against the illusions of theory, I think.

Tom: [00:35:42] Hmm, that's very interesting. So in each of these different scenarios, you try to kind of cut through the structures and the thinking and the theory that sits on top of trying to get at what lies underneath, which is the fundamental reality. You'd be quite a good Buddhist monk with that with that approach to life, by the way.

Rory Stewart : [00:35:58] It's very kind. Thank you.

Tom: [00:36:01] And can I ask, given that you say you spent 30 years in government in one way or the other, some of it in politics and some of it as a civil servant, do you think that you can drive more change inside politics or on the outside? Because you've got a unique perspective on that.

Rory Stewart : [00:36:17] I feel I can drive more change on the outside. I think that government systems are astonishingly difficult to change. If the whole government system is set up to allow you to either pull a very, very big lever and shift an entire aircraft carrier 180 degrees or have almost no influence at all. And actually the secret of most successful things in life is being able to respond flexibly with smaller changes to adjust to the environment around you and that you can do in an NGO very easily. You have a smaller team. You can be much more nimble. But government is extraordinary. I mean, the Africa strategy that I set, I guess in 2017 was only beginning to get underway towards the end of 2018. Got a bit of head of steam up by 2020 and then is sort of being dismantled now in 2022. But it's a it's a sort of odd sense that you try to bring these reforms. As just another example would be, if you look at somebody, a controversial figure like Michael Gove, who was the British education secretary. He tries to bring reforms into education, but it's very difficult 12 years later to really sense what that meant and how that's really worked its way through curricula, teachers, students, results have the way that we've been educated. Has it really changed or hasn't it? Hmm.

Tom: [00:37:51] So do you think in given that in government, I mean, because we've also seen these quite dramatic changes that have been quite detrimental to our our quality of life? I mean, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng's mini budget, Brexit itself, other things, it's almost easier to chuck rocks and take it in the wrong direction than it is to build and construct the platform that improves our lives.

Rory Stewart : [00:38:12] Yes, because most of the things that really matter are not about the what but the how. In other words, they're not fundamentally concerned with the big idea. They're concerned with the way in which things are implemented. For me, for example, to take a very simple example, when I was the minister responsible for all the prisons in England and Wales, the fundamental question isn't should prisons be safe places where you don't get raped and murdered and attacked? The question was how do you make them safe? And that is much more difficult because that's about management, that's about dealing with thousands of prison officers. It's about thinking about gate security. It's about thinking about relationships with prisoners. It's about thinking about how governors do their jobs, governors of prisons do their jobs and set their particular priorities. It's the how of government where the problem is. And I don't know. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about environmental projects or whether you're talking about rolling out broadband or whether you're talking about foreign policy in Africa. What holds us back is not the big idea. What holds us back is having people with the knowledge, the experience, the right attitude to be able to deliver projects effectively.

Tom: [00:39:30] Yeah. Wow, that's such a good description of where we are on climate as well. Right? Because we've had these big treaties on climate for more than ten years with grand things in the text like 1.5 and other objectives, but it's not enough to actually get us moving forward. So I'd like to turn to the COP now, but just before I do. One thing that struck me from a sort of almost philosophical level that resonates with what you just said is in terms of different models of how we change the world that I think we're struggling with in climate. You can almost see this as a dichotomy between those who are trying to drive momentum and those who insist on perfection. So you can say that in an ideal world both of those are needed. But what I've sometimes seen in social movements and environmental movements is that they end up fighting each other. There are those that say we should just get going, and as we move further forward, we'll build momentum and then we'll improve the direction we're heading in. And there are those who say we need to demand everything, and anything less than that is a betrayal. And those two philosophies are sort of fighting each other in the climate world and almost cancelling each other out. What would you recognise that description of the world?

Rory Stewart : [00:40:37] Yeah, absolutely. I think that that's entirely true and I think there is a level of I mean, it goes to the heart of different types of philosophy. I mean, I obviously come from a center right tradition. I come from a conservative tradition that tends to emphasize pragmatism and evolution rather than radical idealism. Hmm. And I often feel obviously in my whole life that sometimes very radical, aggressive ideas get in the way of progress. They they create a sort of vision of perfection and optimism, which is pretty close to despair because it returns to where we began, which is the question of engagement with reality. It's as though. People don't want to talk about trade offs, Don't want to talk about how I don't want to talk about. Sacrifices don't want to talk about. Difficult. Yeah. Difficult choices between lesser evils. Hmm. And. And if you are not prepared to get into that conversation, you can feel good about yourself and feel very pious and feel that the whole world is refusing to listen to your great prophetic vision. But you're unlikely to change anyone's life. You have the sort of delight of purity. Yeah. Without impact.

Tom: [00:42:09] Yeah. Fascinating. Thank you. That's such a good description of where we are on climate. So. So to just turn now to the COP that has just concluded in Sharm, and I'd just like to ask you a couple of questions about the UK politics, and then we'll get into loss and damage, which I think is a very interesting topic area for you. One thing that happened at the beginning of the negotiations, and I have this on good authority from people inside the government, is that the the Prime Minister turned up, having actually burned through a chunk of the climate finance money that had been promised last year. Last year, £11.6 billion was promised over three years in climate finance in Glasgow. And what happened was some of that money, which was originally originally designated as overseas development aid, had ended up being re designated and spent instead on Ukrainians coming to the UK. So the strategy of the Prime Minister was to turn up at the COP and reaffirm the number, but not reaffirm the time frame. Now, he was asked because this leaked pointed questions by activists and journalists over the course of a couple of days. And while he started out by sort of trying to demur on the time frame, in the end, he reconfirmed the three years, which was an interesting sort of turn around. So I just like to ask, as a former development secretary responsible for the overseas development aid budget, how do you respond to the way in which that money is now being used more politically than maybe it was in the time when you were in office?

Rory Stewart : [00:43:41] Yes, you're right. I mean, when I was the secretary of state for the Department for International Development, we were in a very strange situation because the department was preserved by law. It was set up as a legally independent body with its own budget, which was supposed to be 0.7% of the British economy was supposed to be spent on overseas development, and nobody could touch our money. Every time anybody tried to borrow a bit of our money, we had this law to fall back on. And that both meant that as the international development strategy, I was in a very luxurious position. I could literally say, I'm going to put $300 million into Ethiopia or we're going to double the spend on climate and the environment and nobody else and the rest of the government had anything to say about the Treasury. Couldn't really say anything because it was a budget that was ringfenced for us. That changed. And it changed probably because in the end it was difficult to sustain in a world of tight budgets, an idea that there could never be any budget that is completely apolitical, that's completely ringfenced, and that can't be traded against anything else. And the problem is that we've now gone to the other extreme. I mean, as usual in government, that the pendulum doesn't sort of swing to the middle shifts to the other extreme. So what actually has now happened is that the aid budget's been cut from 0.7 to 0.5 theoretically, but in practice, because a lot of the money's been pre committed and as you say, being spent on Ukrainian refugees and being spent in Ukraine itself for the extreme poor, which was the focus of our department's work, the money has dropped by much more than half in many of the African countries in which I work.

Tom: [00:45:28] Which which must look disastrous on the ground, which you are, which you witness in a significant way. 

Rory Stewart : [00:45:32] Very, very sad. It's very sad. It's very sad for the extreme poor, obviously, because it means that they're not getting the support they should. And of course, Africa is struggling in general, struggling because of climate change, struggling because of the legacy of COVID, struggling because of the rising prices, partly to do the Ukraine war. But it also has a profound effect on Britain's international influence because Britain suddenly is no longer able to present itself as. A thoughtful development partner, and it has consequences for many other things. I mean, it means that countries such as China and Russia have more influence in Africa because countries like Britain are retreating. And a lot of this is should be troubling for for citizens in Britain.

Tom: [00:46:23] Yeah. One other thing that came out of Sharm was this breakthrough on loss and damage. And as you know, this has been negotiated for a long time at the UN and in the end, emerging economies, developing countries held together and insisted that a fund is finally created. However, many of the most difficult questions have been kicked forward. Right? So there's been a fund for loss and damage created, but there's no money in it yet. And there's an interesting question over who puts money in and then also who gets to take money out. So I just I don't know if you have sort of views on how that should now work. For the first time. Of course, the Germans are saying China should be putting money in rather than being at the other end of the funnel and taking money out. Where do you think we've come to with all of that now?

Rory Stewart : [00:47:09] Well, I mean, it's an interesting question, isn't it? I mean, I think the the idea that the polluters should pay makes sense. And there's no doubt at all that the developed world and China have caused an enormous amount of the problem. And that. The poorest countries in the world. Countries like Somalia, which are experiencing the most extreme impacts of climate change, have themselves contributed nothing to that climate change. There are no emissions coming out. So philosophically that all make sense. I think the key point, though, is how much money can be raised and what that money is then spent on, rather than the question of whether how that's framed. And there are many different these are basically rhetorical arguments from many different moral and political arguments you can make for why the money should be transferred and who it should be transferred to. But fundamentally, almost regardless of who's responsible, the victims of it are the poorest people in the world.

Tom: [00:48:09] Yeah.

Rory Stewart : [00:48:09] And therefore, I would like to see much, much more support given directly to the poorest people in the world so that they are more resilient in the face of extreme weather events. And I have just been in Kilifi in eastern Kenya, and it's horrifying. It's horrifying seeing the dead livestock. It's horrifying seeing the livestock that are not yet dead being led to 3 hours from villages to try to pick a few leaves off a thorn bush to try to keep alive.

L.A. Salami: [00:48:39] Hmm.

Rory Stewart : [00:48:40] And I'm very troubled. About, not just about the wealthy countries and whether they're going to give the money. I'm also worried about what the developing countries will do with the money if they get it, because they may well not be providing it to help the very poorest.

Tom: [00:48:58] Hmm. So let's get into GiveDirectly in just a second. I know you've taken a role there, and it's amazing what's being achieved through GiveDirectly. It'd be great for listeners to understand that more. Just one more question on loss and damage before we do. One of the things that I was aware of at the COP is that there were Republican Party strategists from the US there and they could sort of barely contain their glee at the idea of a loss and damage fund and that they could weaponise this principle going into the next US election, saying Biden's taking money from hard working American taxpayers in Wyoming and giving it to to other people in other parts of the world. And and you can see it's so easy to use that as a political tool which limits the space available in liberal democracies to do what we know is needed, which is global solidarity in the face of an unjust issue like climate change. But and you've talked and spoken a lot about this, but the shift away from a sense of internationalism is limiting the political space. What's the what's the thread there by which democracies can still make the case for global solidarity in in our current politics?

Rory Stewart : [00:50:04] Yeah, well, I think I mean, if you're spending taxpayers money, you have fundamentally to bring taxpayers along with you. And that means you need to communicate what you're spending their money on in a way that is appealing emotionally, morally, and that involves a certain amount of psychology. And there may be voters who like the idea that they're providing money out of guilt. But that doesn't seem to me to be the majority of voters in Europe or the United States. The majority of voters in Europe or the United States would prefer to feel that they're providing assistance to the developing world out of a sense of generosity rather than compulsion. Now, that may be offensive to, as you say, the victims of climate change or the victims of global capitalist structures. They may well, the recipients may prefer to feel that they're not getting the money as charity, they're getting the money as their right. But the problem is, how do you motivate the giver, not how do you placate the recipient? And I think it is important.

Rory Stewart : [00:51:16] In doing this to keep an optimistic, positive story going. And that is partly about a fundamental idea that a dollar in the United States or Britain is worth $100 in the developing world, that a small contribution can make an incredible difference to somebody else's life. And I think that's much more likely to motivate people than making them feel that they're having to hand the money over out of shame or guilt. Otherwise it will get caught up in many other types of movement which are also weaponised in the culture wars. It will sound to people as though this is a you know, this is replaying arguments about decolonisation or slavery or some other form of repair retribution for historic crimes, which I think is something that appeals to a part of the electorate. I don't know how much of it, but maybe ten, 20% of people think in that way. But I don't think it's something that is likely to sustain a broad coalition of generous contributions going forward.

Tom: [00:52:18] Yeah, but speaking of generous contributions you have recently taken on the role as president of GiveDirectly, and I have to say I've known a little bit about GiveDirectly, but as part of preparing for talking to you, I've looked into it and it's kind of remarkable the impact and the scale that that's gotten to. So maybe you could just talk to us a little bit about that because that really feels like that could be a really powerful tool at this moment when we need to show global solidarity.

Rory Stewart : [00:52:44] Well, thank you. So GiveDirectly is a very, very simple idea. The idea is that people who can afford it, which generally means people in Europe, the United States, Australia give money directly to the poorest people in the world. And at the heart of it is an idea of dignity. The idea is that instead of going, as it were, to a village in Uganda or Malawi or Rwanda and telling people what to do with the money, which is often what a lot of non-profit NGO work feels like, it often feels as though you're turning up and saying you're not feeding yourselves properly, you're not educated, you're not healthy, you're not treating the women correctly or whatever the narrative is. This is instead saying, we trust you, we respect you, we believe in you. And here is cash, unconditional cash. And we trust somebody who is in extreme poverty to know better how to spend that money than I as a foreigner do. And the results are really remarkable because, of course, it's very efficient because there aren't lots of middle, middle people, middle men, middle women between the donor and the recipient. The money goes directly to someone's telephone, so it avoids the problems of potentially corrupt governments and others getting their hands on the money along the way. And the money then we find is usually spent in an extraordinarily rapid, transitory fashion. So people will very, very quickly invest in a solar panel, repair their house, buy a cow, plant new crops, invest in small business, get their children back into school, and all of that for a lump sum, which could be $550 to an individual. And $550, of course, is a significant amount of money to somebody in the West. But the point is, it is worth 100 times more to somebody.

Tom: [00:54:41] In a life changing amount of money to someone else. Yeah. Yeah. That's amazing. And I mean, what that shows is like how the utilization of trust, which has been so, so absent sometimes in international development, can actually elevate impact. Are you seeing any signs that because it's amazing to focus this on individuals, our institutions and governments picking up on this model as a way to work as well?

Rory Stewart : [00:55:04] Beginning to you begin to see a little bit more. But still, it's very, very small. I mean, if the entire international development spend in the world less than 2% currently goes into cash programs. And that's very surprising because we've now got over 300 academic papers demonstrating the impact of cash, showing that cash can outperform nutrition programs on nutrition, on bone density, and stunting that cash can do extraordinary things for education, enrollment for youth employment. We're looking at some very interesting programs at the moment on climate and the environment and the way in which we can combine cash programming with projects for reforestation or projects for conservation. And I think it is not just incredibly powerful. It's also intensely scaleable and replicable. I mean, one of the problems often with international development is you can have somebody running a very, very good clinic in northeast Nigeria. But if you said to them, can you now roll out 100,000 of these, they'd say, No, of course not. I mean, the point is they've got a really good team and I'm running a really good individual clinic. But cash can be replicated. And actually, cash, I believe, is central if we actually want to end extreme poverty in our lifetime. It's probably the only intervention which has the chance of really achieving these goals that the UN keeps setting about ending extreme poverty. But it also, given what we're talking about, is vital for giving these poor communities the resilience to deal with climate change.

Tom: [00:56:44] Yeah, that's really interesting because I think one of the things I keep hearing on international development circles is how quickly the world is changing from a from a from a climatic and harvest point of view, particularly in equatorial places like Africa. And it's very difficult for these programs to respond to changing scenarios. So, I mean, is that do you see that cash? I mean, people will respond very quickly to their scenarios if they've got flexibility and the adaptive opportunity to do so. So that actually could become even more powerful in the scenario of a rapidly changing world. Do you think that's the case? 

Rory Stewart : [00:57:18] Yes, absolutely. And I would like to see a great deal of the theoretically 100 billion that's been committed going into cash programming. Yeah, I think it would be wonderful for countries that are struggling with the impacts of droughts and climate change, particularly in Africa, to think about doing cash transfers to every single individual in extreme poverty, because that would then give them the resilience to make their way through what we're now seeing in Somalia, which is the fourth year of drought in Sahel, some areas the sixth year of drought, the sort of crushing impact, but not just drought. You know, in Uganda we're working on people suffering from extreme landslides in Mozambique, from flooding. And in every case, cash is what allows you to respond very nimbly to if you look at really extreme event like a flood. It allows you to decide what your priorities are. Do you need a tent? Do you need food rather than what often happens, which is the international community sort of sends a tent or. Right. Sends food from Kansas, and then the individual has to sell that thing to get the cash to buy what they actually need.

Tom: [00:58:28] Right. It's absolutely fascinating. And do you see part of your role as both trying to drive individual donations and also speaking to donor governments to help them understand this very much?

Rory Stewart : [00:58:40] Okay. Pretty much, yeah. I'm on my way to Washington. Okay. I'm going to try hard to get [00:58:44] USAID [00:58:44] and the World Bank to take this more seriously, talking to the World Bank technology about working together. Amazing things like Malawi. Yeah, but yes, it is about trying to shift the way the international community thinks about it, because there's $160 billion a year of international development assistance.

Tom: [00:59:00] Yes.

Rory Stewart : [00:59:01] Which could be going into cash and isn't.

Tom: [00:59:03] Yeah. Amazing. Well, before this interview, I went on your website and made a small donation just to see how the process worked. And it's incredibly easy. So everyone listening to this should do it. It's the transaction cost is small and as you said, a small amount of money makes a big difference. Rory, it's such a pleasure to talk to you. I have to ask you one more question before I let you go, which we ask all of our guests on this podcast, which is sitting where you do, now we're speaking to you, Amman, Jordan. You have an amazing perspective on the world, given your vast diversity of backgrounds and also what you see around the world. Could you please tell us one thing that gets you outraged and one thing that makes you feel optimistic?

Rory Stewart : [00:59:41] So I think one thing that makes me outraged is. The fact that there is such extreme destitution and poverty still in the world. And that for about 0.1% of global GDP, we could effectively end it. So I think that's what outrages me. And I think the way to do that, obviously, as I keep saying, is through much bigger cash programming and. Something that makes me optimistic. Yeah. I suppose what makes me optimistic is the sense that throughout history we have adapted remarkably to the most unbelievable crises and shifts in technology. Now, I sometimes get scared about the way in which social media is powering populism. But then I reflect on how well we adapted to the arrival of print during the wars of religion or radio and television and the horrors of the second second World War and then fed the horrors of the 20th century in general. And I yeah, I do remain fundamentally optimistic about humans.

Tom: [01:00:50] Fabulous. Rory Stewart is such a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you very much for joining us. And everyone should donate to GiveDirectly. And of course, I'm sure you already listen to The Rest is Politics. So thanks so much.

Rory Stewart : [01:01:02] Thank you, Tom.

Tom: [01:01:11] So I have to say, I loved talking to Rory Stewart. I've long had enormous amounts of admiration for him. And I was sorry you two couldn't join. But it was a sort of unique experience having a one on one interview. And that was great, too. And it was lovely to talk to him. What did you both you both heard the conversation. What did you feel about it?

Paul: [01:01:28] So I wasreally deeply struck by one thing he said, and it kind of blew my mind. He called his kind of opponents kind of ideological people, and he said they have the delight of purity, but without impact. And then it triggered something. And I went off and I checked some comments from George Monbiot, who's recently won an Orwell Prize for saying the exact opposite. And so I was really struck by that particular tension about the sort of pragmatic centre right and the idealistic, if that's the word, maybe, maybe idealist is the wrong word. I'm sure [01:02:07] Mumia, [01:02:07] if he was here, would say the pragmatic left. And Christiana Figueres once said, 'Do you want to be righteous or do you want to be helpful?'. And I like to quote her when it pops up in the chat.

Tom: [01:02:19] Actually, when you feel it's helpful to you in the discussion.

Paul: [01:02:22] Exactly. But very specifically, I think there are some of these other tensions. It's got me thinking about the tension between kind of a free market and then free politics. We're struck with these these paradoxical tensions and we've got to reconcile them because I'm just feeling that that's the kind of [01:02:42] Gordian knot [01:02:43] we've got to cut.

Tom: [01:02:44] Yeah, I completely agree with that. And I love that this is the piece we picked up on because it's fast becoming the topic that I think is. And Christiana, you and I have talked about this a lot. The topic that I think we have to find a way to transcend. So I see the world now as sort of splitting as we as the impacts of climate change get worse. And there's this sort of breathless anxiety takes over us. Then people are concluding that what we need to do now is double down on whatever we were doing before. So that means that if you were insisting on urgent change before, you're even more insistent on it, and if you were insisting on getting on the path and getting moving and then accelerating as you go, then you're continuing to insist on that. And we're sort of moving away in different directions. And I saw that in the COP in spades, that there were those who were saying, let's just get going and invest and get moving, and then we can build up the scale and make it perfect as we keep going. And others who are saying, unless we demand exactly what we want, then we're selling ourselves short. We're selling the future short. And those two theories of change that Christiana, you and I have called perfection and momentum or broad participation and high, high integrity can sort of eat each other if the relationship between them is unhealthy and both can stop the other from building momentum. And I've been doing a bit of reading on this. And what's interesting is if you look back at previous social movements, whether it's suffragettes or civil rights or colonial independence, they struggled with this too. And actually the key was not one perfect theory of change. It's a healthy relationship between the two.

Christiana: [01:04:18] Exactly.

Tom: [01:04:18] Those who speak to the middle and talk about taking steps to get us moving forward. And you need a radical flank that then demands everything we want and refuses to give up and sort of holds everybody to account. And I think that that middle between the two is is just contains a magic key for us as we're trying to move forward in the climate debate. And I really liked how Rory brought that forward. I think he is a very effective communicator and very keen on transformative change, but I think he's quite pragmatic on how he tries to get there, which is more about meeting people where they are, as he said himself, focusing on the how and then moving us forward from that point of view, which I think has been very effective in his life.

Paul: [01:05:02] Just one little story from the old days, in the early days of the [01:05:06] Stonewall lobby [01:05:06] group in the UK, that we were sort of forming a kind of parliamentary lobbying organisation and then there would be lesbians who would sail into the House of Lords and get on the news. But maybe on Sunday over lunch they might discuss who was doing what at what time, even though they were entirely separate. If you see what I mean. So it's the point is that it's not one thing, but maybe it's one approach that coordinates many different, very extraordinary and special things that come together.

Tom: [01:05:36] But that you have trust between the approaches so they can collaborate. And I think one thing I would observe is in climate now, I think that trust is broken. And I think that those two sides don't trust each other to move us forward. I thought that just in general, I think that Rory is playing a very pragmatic and I mean, as I said in the rest of politics, I also thought GiveDirectly is a remarkable success story. And as I said, I looked more into that afterwards, and I'd really encourage listeners to have a look at that. I mean, even things like landscape restoration in Africa, it turns out that giving relatively small amounts of money to individuals in places like the DRC or Malawi or elsewhere is really effective because then if you own a few acres, you plant a few trees, you restore your land, you become wealthier yourself, but you also restore the ecosystem. So I really hope that that becomes a more recognized method of development finance, because it seems to be that there's a lot of evidence that that's now the way we need to go.

Paul: [01:06:37] Yeah, And I mean, just on that specific one, he said some amazing things blew my mind. Like, for example, he explained why we obviously morally but should support people with, the poorest people in the world. He said one $1 here is worth $100 there. Think about that incredible response rate. He said for 0.1% of GDP, we could just end extreme poverty around the world. And he pointed out that if we fail to do this, countries that we might find more complicated geopolitically, like Russia or others, might extend their influence in some of these countries. So I'm really I was really moved by that logic of of the sort of enlightened self-interest of of us increasing our support for the most vulnerable in the world.

Christiana: [01:07:21] Yeah. So true and so exacerbated when you wrap the climate context around that. It is it is absolutely true, even in the absence of climate. But once you put climate as an accelerant of all of the negative impacts, it is just so overwhelmingly correct. And and honestly, it has. Yeah. The the positive impacts that that can have go way beyond anything that that we think of. So, yes, kudos to him because here we have been talking about macro changes and about what the World Bank and the Multilateral Development Bank should be doing. Also true. And at the other end of the scale, what we as individuals can be doing for other individuals around on the other side of the planet, now equally as compelling.

Paul: [01:08:21] I put the links in the show notes.

Tom: [01:08:23] And I think his focus on that really speaks to his commitment to the how. Right. The interesting thing is how we do these things. It's all there to be done. We all agree we don't want climate to screw our planet and destroy biodiversity and compromise the future. The interesting question is how. And I think that's been really instructive.

Christiana: [01:08:39] And that's where we don't agree.

Tom: [01:08:41] Right? Yeah, exactly. That's that's where we need.

Christiana: [01:08:43] To come together. Exactly. As he says very clearly that's where we don't agree.

Tom: [01:08:47] Yeah. Anything else, we go to the music. Okay, so this has been a lot of fun. And this week we're leaving you as ever with a piece of music. Kudos to the title of this song. So this is L.A. Salami.

Christiana: [01:09:00] Good job. Good job, Clay, for choosing that one.

Tom: [01:09:04] Desperate times, mediocre measures. This is the anthem of the coffee shop milkshake.

Tom: [01:09:10] Little unfair. We don't mean to take away from what everyone achieved, but this is a great song and perfectly named. So enjoy this. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you next week.

Christiana: [01:09:19] Bye bye.

Tom: [01:09:21] Bye bye bye.

Christiana: [01:09:24] To our audience, our live audience by Peggy and Bob. Bye bye. Hi, everyone.

L.A. Salami: [01:09:33] Hello, my name is L.A. Salami, and this song is Desperate Times, Mediocre measures d t m m. It is a song that tackles the idea of the cyclical and corrosive nature of power structures across our societies. Hierarchical structures that, like all structures in our reality, are made up of and reinforced by people who find themselves more often than not, enforcing the very corrupted elements of those structures, sometimes purely due to the fact that this can become the prime method of propping themselves up within that structure.

Clay: [01:12:47] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage and Optimism. L. A. Salami, 'Desperate times, Mediocre measures'. Now, I got the credit a couple of minutes ago for picking this song for the week and for the title. But all credit is due to L.A. Salami for naming the track. And by the way, if the title in the poetic lyrics of the song caught you, this is just the tip of the iceberg. His latest record, Auto Line, was just released one month ago. It's available on vinyl and it's streaming everywhere that you listen to music. But real quick, before I even say what my name is, two things I want you to take away with you. Number one, there's a link in the show notes to his music videos on his website, and I was reading that his first love was film, and it really shows because his originality and engaging film style shows up in his music videos. I mean, just the variety and originality just kind of oozes from these like six or eight music videos that are featured right there in a link that I have for you in the show notes. And I actually found myself going from video to video wondering what the next frame was going to be and start with 'Things ain't changed'. That's my pick of the week. And two, he has shows booked this year actually once in East London tonight. So if you live near East London and it's Thursday, November 24th, you should go. And then a string of shows in March across the UK, Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany.

Clay: [01:14:28] So you can go to L.A.Salami.Live or you can just go to the show notes. I've got a link for you there. Go see a show, man. It's just the best. It's the best. We have music on the show. Amazing artists. L.A. Salami. So, hi, my name is Clay. I'm the producer of Outrage + Optimism. This is like the end of the podcast where I just talk for a couple of minutes about who was on the show. What you can look forward to in the show notes and some exciting news here and there. So let's get into it. Shout out to Rory Stewart for coming on the show as our guest this week. You can check out the work of Give directly in the show notes below. And I know the holiday season is upon us, so be thinking about giving generously this year to make an incredible difference in the life of someone who we share the planet with and of course subscribe and listen to 'The Rest is Politics' everywhere you get your podcasts. But you're already probably subscribed. But if you're not, off chance that you're not, go subscribe. All right. Tomorrow, the Way Out is in our Sister podcast is releasing an episode that is perfect for recovering from a COP27 two week go, or just living a life in this fast paced world. I just finished editing this episode and it's titled The Art of Laziness. Don't just do something. Sit there. Very funny.

Clay: [01:16:12] That's a quote from Thích Nhất Hạnh. You can go check that out anywhere you get your podcasts. Again, that episode really helpful to let you just. Sit and breathe for a second. And once you're recovered, you're returned to your full self. The very, very last thing I have for you today is that we are currently conducting a listener survey and we really want your input on how to shape the podcast. We do these every now and then to gather feedback from our community. But I really want to emphasize that this is one of the best times to speak directly to us about who you are and what you want from our show. And just a small peek behind the curtain, the feedback and information that you share with us via these listener surveys gets compiled into this report that we reference refer to double check back to make sure we heard you right all the time. It really is a guiding light for our podcast. So we really want to, you know what, I'm actually going to double down on this. We need to hear from you to keep this show relevant and successful and frankly, in your feed every Thursday. So can't thank you enough in advance for doing this, but go check the show notes for the link to our listener survey. Can't wait to hear from you. Right? I'm responsible for bringing veggies and hummus to Thanksgiving this year, so I need to go actually chop those up and plate that. We'll see you next Thursday.


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